JUL 27, 2015 05:39 AM PDT

See the Bunny? It's a Sea Bunny!

Imagine you're on a beach in the Pacific, snorkeling and you come upon a sea slug. Gross, right? Sea slugs are nasty, slimy things that crawl around the bottom of the ocean floor. They leave a trail of sea goo and they eat whatever else all the other sea creatures leave behind. Well, not all sea slugs are like that.
The tiny sea bunny is the newest internet star
One particular breed is just the opposite. It's part of the mollusk phylum, in the class known as nudibranchs. From there it falls under the family Discodorididae and the genus Jorunna Parva. So with all that Latin classification what do you call this thing? Well it's about as far from scary and slimy as you can get, in fact it's fast becoming the Internet's darling of the undersea world. Ladies and gentlemen, check out the Sea Bunny. How can a slug be anything like a bunny? Well, of course they aren't even close to bunnies as far as their classification but this tiny sea slug has everything a bunny has...well, maybe not everything.

First, sea bunnies are way smaller. They don't get much larger than an inch long. They are round and fluffy though, like an underwater cotton ball. What looks like fuzz is actually called caryophyllidia. Rather than being soft like fuzz or fur, they are actually stiff rods, with the consistency of fishing line. In addition, these fibers surround small knob-like black dots. In an interview with National Geographic, Angel Valdes, a professor in the Biological Sciences department at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, stated, "We don't know for sure what these organs do but they probably play sensory roles."

Like bunnies though, the J. Parva sea slugs do have pointy ears with specialized fuzz that can pick up signals from all directions. Except they aren't really ears and they don't pick up sound. They are called rhinopores and their purpose is sense chemicals in the water that can alert them to potential mates or food sources. In an article in Deep Sea News, marine biologist Dr. Craig McClain wrote, "In the group of nudibranchs that contains the sea bunnies, the rhinophores are particularly 'fuzzy' allowing for more surface area for this reception to occur on."

What about reproduction? Like rabbits, are the sea bunnies happily multiplying? That's a little more complicated. They are hermaphrodites, and their bodies contain both sperm and eggs however they cannot fertilize themselves, so they don't have the numbers that land rabbits do.

Japanese marine biologist Kikutaro Baba discovered the species and was the first to describe them in 1938, but they've been pretty much unknown since. So why all the Internet fame? A Japanese dive store filmed them in March of 2014, but the footage recently went viral and a new cyber star was born.

While the most common color is white, they actually come in several colors such as yellow, green or even bright blue. They are mostly found off the coast of Japan, but can also be spotted in the waters of the Indian Ocean and in the Philippines. They've been taking social media by storm though and are being seen all over Twitter, Facebook and online publications. Pretty impressive for a slug. check out the video to learn more

Source: Treehugger.com, Deep Sea News, National Geographic
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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